A Branding Case Study: Part III

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In the first article of this series, we discussed the logo ( https://21thirteen.com/branding-case-study-part/ ), then the Emotional Message ( https://21thirteen.com/branding-case-study-part-ii/ ). Now we move on to the all-important “emotional message”.


Paruresis is a condition that affects more than 2 million Americans, and the International Paruresis Association is the only organization in the country that supports those who suffer from it. Yet membership and support were dwindling, they had an ineffective visual brand and their website was old fashioned and poorly designed. They needed help.


That first (Malcolm) “Gladwellian blink” – that first 1/25th of a second is all important. In Western culture, we read from right to left and top to bottom, and that’s what our eyes automatically do when we look at anything resembling a “page”. That’s why logos are almost always located in the upper left of a web page. (And should be, unless of course we want to make someone look for it elsewhere). That’s also why a logo must really represent a brand.

But the other thing we see in that first 1/25th of a second is what is called the banner image, and any word message that might be in it. That’s why the image and what we call the “emotional message” or “microscript” is all-important. This top part of the home page of a website has to tell the story of a brand in that 1/25th of a second. The whole story is there, or should be. We take it in pre-consciously. We don’t read the fine print until later. We don’t take in the “informational messaging” until later. But if the emotional message gets across, Neuroscience and Cognitive Psychology tells us that the information received after an emotional impact goes deeper and lasts longer in the mind.


So what we see on this site in the first moment is the logo, the emotional message, “You’re not alone”, and the image. A great deal of time can be spent finding the right image. In this case, we see the back of someone’s head. Why the back? Firstly, it’s easier for the viewer to put themselves “in” the image because there is no recognizable face that is not their face. Secondly, it reinforces the “aloneness” of the person in the picture. Thirdly, if the viewer does not put themselves “in” the image but remains looking at this person, there is no connection and the viewer remains alone.

Then, the rest of the image is extremely out of focus, which again makes it consciously a scene which we cannot reject being in. Interestingly enough, the way the human mind works, we do unconsciously recognize the scene, even though it’s so out of focus. It’s an airplane. The camera is behind the head of the person, looking down the fuselage of an airliner, at the seats and heads in front. The out of focus scene reinforces the isolation and creates the “alone in a crowd” feeling which someone with Paruresis so often feels.

The image is NOT of someone who is all smiling and happy after being rid of this condition. If that was you, you would not need the IPA. The image conveys the feeling we want to target, the feeling of the person who needs the IPA. We don’t want smiling faces, attractive women, cute puppies, breathtaking mountains, or any of what so many people put on web pages and marketing messages. We want to juxtapose the negative with the positive, and tell the story in 1/25th of a second.

Interested in finding out how you can use branding to reach more people and become more successful? Email us at hello@21thirteen.com or call us at 646 808 0249 to find out more.